March 15, 1947

  At night the factories
  struggle awake,
  wretched uneasy buildings
  veined with pipes
  attempt their work.
  Trying to breathe
  the elongated nostrils
  haired with spikes
  give off such stenches, too.
And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you’ll sell me.

  On certain floors
  certain wonders.
  Pale dirty light,
  some captured iceberg
  being prevented from melting.
  See the mechanical moons,
  sick, being made
  to wax and wane
  at somebody’s instigation.
And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you’ll sell me.

  Lights music of love
  work on. The presses
  print calendars
  I suppose, the moons
  make medicine
  or confectionary. Our bed
  shrinks from the soot
  and the hapless odors
  hold us close.
And I shall sell you sell you
sell you of course, my dear, and you’ll sell me.

This article is part of The Nation’s 150th Anniversary Special Issue. Download a free PDF of the issue, with articles by James Baldwin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Toni Morrison, Howard Zinn and many more, here.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979), the poet laureate of the United States from 1949 to 1950, published two poems in The Nation between 1945 and 1947, when Randall Jarrell was interim literary editor. She was a longtime friend of the more frequent Nation contributor Marianne Moore, who in a 1946 review in these pages described Bishop as “spectacular in being unspectacular.”